Today the trial against alleged Mekong River drug lord Naw Kham begins in Kunming. He is charged with murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping and the hijacking of ships. Naw Kham faces the death penalty if convicted, China Daily is reporting.
The trial appears to mark the end of what Chinese authorities are characterizing as Naw Kham's nearly two-decade run as one of the most feared drug lords in the Golden Triangle. According to quotes from Chinese police officials obtained by China Daily, the inquiry was "the most complicated criminal case Chinese police have ever handled."
The complexity of the case stems from its international nature. Naw Kham is a Burmese national, but was apprehended in Laos for the crime of killing 13 Chinese sailors in Thai waters. Those murders were carried out in October of 2011, and were allegedly revenge killings orchestrated by Naw Kham in retaliation for an earlier raid on one of his drug warehouses.
The killings strained relations between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors. In the wake of the Chinese sailors' murders, shipping traffic on the Mekong River near the Chinese, Lao and Burmese borders was suspended.
However, instead of causing an international row, the four countries involved cooperated in setting up joint patrols along the Mekong to protect commercial traffic.
In addition to joint patrols, China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand began sharing intelligence reports. Chinese media has hailed this cooperation as playing an essential role in Naw Kham's April 2012 capture.
The trial, held in the Intermediate Court of Kunming, will feature testimony from Chinese, Thai and Lao authorities involved in the investigation. Naw Kham stands accused with five of his associates, all charged with similar crimes.
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